Here are a few notes from the morning's work put in…
- Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase took part in individual drills, but did not lead the No. 1 offense in team-oriented competition near the end of the practice. His injured ankle, hurt Wednesday after a defensive player and an o-lineman fell around his feet, was stiff this morning but there is no serious injury.
- Speaking of which, the offense did not have a good day. Coordinator Bill Cubit confirmed that to us after the practice, but he didn't have to say it -- it was obvious to anybody watching. O'Toole had his worst practice of training camp, according to Cubit, and the entire offense seemed weary-legged out there.
- Jonathan Brown said he expects to return to action Friday after missing this week with a concussion. The senior linebacker said it's the first concussion he's ever had at Illinois and that he understood the protocol for getting back on the practice field. With all that has been documented recently about concussions, it's going to be a six or seven day minimum before any player with a concussion can return, no matter where they're playing.
- As I noted Wednesday, Corey Lewis isn't taking every single rep with the No. 1 offense in an effort give his knees a break. Yesterday it was Patrick Flavin getting the reps at right tackle in place of Lewis. Today Michael Heitz slid over to tackle and Joe Spencer manned the left guard spot. At this point, Coach Tim Beckman said Flavin and Spencer are the next best available behind the starters, hence the work with the No. 1 group in the event they're needed.
- The starting o-line is solidified. Here's the No. 2 group: LT Dallas Hinkhouse, LG Austin Schmidt, C Jake Feldmeyer, RG Chris O'Connor and RT Flavin. Obviously Spencer figures into this look somewhere. O'Connor is another player Beckman said has improved this camp. I'd estimate he's in the top eight and I overheard coach A.J. Ricker yell out to O'Connor, "I'm waiting on you to step up to the next level," during one-on-ones against the defensive lineman. It's clear they're pushing him to get better. The depth on the line needs to continue to develop.
- In those one-on-one drills, Jarrod Clements absolutely dominated Christian DiLauro on about five or six reps. Clements used both speed and power moves and really got the best of his freshman counterpart. Ricker was giving some tough love to DiLauro and after 15 up-downs he returned and held his own on a final rep.
I also watched wide receivers and defensive backs go one-on-ones in a drill that the wideouts completely dominated. It really wasn't fair to the defensive backs, stuck on an island with no help and the receivers and quarterbacks in sync just burning them left and right. I'd say seven or eight out of every 10 throws were completions. At one point, Cubit jumped all over safety Earnest Thomas after Martize Barr caught a short pass and wheeled to the outside and raced to the end zone. Cubit was upset with Thomas for not finishing the drill, something that I've yet to see out of the junior all of training camp. Cubit's reaction was intense… he threw his hat and chased Thomas back to defensive backs line and had words with him.
- Caleb Day practiced at cornerback this morning. He had been solely at safety to this point, but Beckman said they won't to get the freshman on the field as fast as possible.
The team will hold two practices Friday, so the players will take Thursday afternoon off for a little R&R. Please feel free to shoot me any questions and comments on the premium message board and I'll answer ASAP.